Who wouldn’t want to make a good impression on their first day?
By Peter Chelmer
Susan Bailey was by the door giving her hair a last check. It was her very first day as a new teacher at Westfield County High and first impressions were so important.
“You look fine, love,” her mother said as she fussed around her. “Have you got everything?”
Susan wished her mother wouldn’t fuss over her so much. She was after all now a fully qualified English teacher just like her mother before her. Mrs Bailey had been the terror of the lower sixth for many a year until retiring five years ago.
“You’ll need this,” she said putting a brown package in her briefcase. “Don’t be afraid to use it. The most important thing is to make a firm impression on those girls in your first lesson.” The emphasis was all on the word ‘firm’.
Right now the most important thing was to catch her bus, thought Susan. “Bye mum, love you.” She kissed Mrs Bailey and flew out of the house reaching the stop just as the bus came round the corner.
Finding a seat Susan thought about the day ahead. Mum was right of course. The first few lessons would be all important in gaining the respect of her pupils. Without that she knew she would be a failure. I wonder what’s in the package she thought and pulled it out of her briefcase. She unfolded the end and peeked inside. It was a slipper or, perhaps more correctly, a plimsoll. What had mother said? Make a firm impression!
Susan knew her mother had a reputation for standing no nonsense from naughty girls. Although attending a different school, this hadn’t saved her from a sore bottom on more than one occasion. She smiled ruefully as she pictured herself touching her toes in her bedroom, skirt up, knickers down as her mother expertly set about reddening her bottom. She wondered if this was the very same implement. Probably was, she decided. Oh well, she wouldn’t be using it. Westfield County High was a very good school where the girls were noted for being well-behaved. It was more a question of convincing them she knew her subject, she thought, and pushed the package back into her briefcase.
Mrs Applegate, the headmistress, welcomed her to the school in her study. “Here’s your timetable – only one lesson for the first day, building up to two, then three, four, five a day by the end of the week. Then we will have a review on the Friday. Just to see how you are progressing. All lessons with the Upper Sixth, just to break you in gently. You’ll find them easy enough if you show them you are in charge,” she concluded a little vaguely.
* * *
Susan paused outside room A14, butterflies fluttering in her tummy. Inside her first class of a score or more of eighteen year olds waited for her. She could hear a low murmur of conversation. Taking a deep breadth she swept into the room.
“Good morning, class. I’m your new teacher,” she announced brightly. Immediately the girls stood up and became quiet, each examining the new member of staff.
‘Oh good I seem to have started well,’ thought Susan.
“Sit down.” She told the class her name and that they would be studying ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen. This produced some sighs between two or three of the girls. “So, so boring!!” Said one in the front row quietly, but just loud enough for Susan to hear.
She pointed to the girl. “So you think one of the great English novels is boring? And why is that?”
“It’s about soppy people living hundreds of years ago! Anyway I think it’s boring!” And with that the girl folded her arms, a stubborn expression on her face. A murmur from the class showed she had some support. Unchecked this might grow. Susan knew she had to do something and quickly. She was about to lose control of the whole class and only two minutes into the lesson!
“What’s your name?”
“Carol Simpson – what?” Susan said in a loud voice she hoped was authoritative.
“Carol Simpson…” The girl paused and then, rolling her eyes, added: “Madam!”
Susan was genuinely shocked. She stepped near to the girl and placed her face close to the girl.
“I beg your pardon? Don’t you dare be so insolent,” she shouted. “You address me as ‘Miss’.”
Something began to dawn on Susan. “I suppose you think ‘Madam’ fits the book and the period we are about to study?” She left the question hanging in the air. This was deliberate insolence, even if quite clever, and she knew now this called for strong action from her.
“Very funny indeed. I wonder if you will find this as amusing.” She walked to her table and drew out the slipper from her briefcase.
“Carol! Come to the front!”
The girl seemed confused and alarmed in equal measures. “But Mad… I mean, Miss!”
“Not another word! Come out here girl!” Carol reluctantly stood in front of her teacher, head bowed, hands behind her back.
“You will bend over for two smacks with the slipper.”
“That does it. I have never heard such insolence! You will now get an additional two smacks. BEND OVER!”
Carol now looked thoroughly miserable. This was not what she expected when she made her remark at all. But she obviously had no choice. She shot one last pleading look at Miss Bailey and then reluctantly did as she had been told and touched her toes.
The adrenalin of the situation had carried Carol this far but now she realised with a jolt that she didn’t actually know how to slipper someone, never having done this before. She’d have to rely on her own experience of being on the receiving end at home. Just goes to show that in life every experience comes in useful, sooner or later, she thought wryly.
She looked at girl in front of her. Her blue skirt had pleats and these protected her bottom quite nicely. Susan knew she would have to do something about this. “This skirt will have to be raised.” And so saying she flipped the material up and over the girl’s back. Good, no protest at that – probably too worried about what was about to happen, she thought. Carol’s regulation blue knickers were now on display, nicely filled by the eighteen year old’s rather shapely bottom. Should I take her knickers down as well and deliver the smacks on the bare? She quickly decided against this as likely to provoke a protest from the girl, something Susan was not at all sure she would be able to deal with.
Carol’s bottom was swaying a little as she looked behind her anxiously.
“Look forward!” Susan picked up the slipper in a firm grip. “Four strokes!” She announced. The class sat like statues viewing the drama being played out in front of them.
But how hard should the smacks be? And exactly where on the target? Spread around or concentrated in the same place? Susan banished these thoughts and raised the slipper high.
With the briefest pause, she brought it down hard on the left part of the waiting bottom.
“OUCHHH! That hurt, Miss!!” Carol cried out.
“It’s only what you deserve! Stay silent and stay still, otherwise there will be extras!” Warned her teacher.
The slipper descended on the right side. WHAACKK!
Half way through thought Susan, aiming for slightly lower down.
The girl clutched her bottom and almost stood up. She was now moaning with her bottom feeling on fire.
Last one! Susan wondered if she should ease up as the girl was clearly distressed but, remembering that her reputation was at stake, strengthened her resolve and decided to make the final smack really count.
The slipper descended harder than ever. WHAAAACKKKK!
The poor girl jumped up, and hopped around, rubbing her bottom furiously. Two small tears ran down her face. Too late she remembered the instruction not to move. “(Sob), Oh, (Sob), sorry Miss,” and returned to her place bending down again.
Susan decided to ignore this disobedience as the girl had obviously learnt her lesson and quickly ordered her back to her seat. Ever girl in the class noticed the wince as she sat down.
“Now,” Susan said brightly. “Is any one else going to call me ‘Madam’?”
There was silence.
“And does anyone else find Jane Austen boring?”
“Good. I want everyone to behave and work hard during the lesson, otherwise…,” and here she looked at the slipper remaining on view in the table. “…You know exactly what to expect.”
From then on she had their rapt attention, with a forest of hands shooting up to answer every question she asked the class. Suddenly Jane Austen had become very interesting indeed.
* * *
“There you are Miss Bailey. Come in and sit down.” Mrs Applegate waved Susan into her study. “Do sit down.” The Headmistress had called Susan to a meeting at the end of that day rather than waiting until the end of the week.
“I thought we ought to have our review now as I have heard various things about you.” She smiled encouragingly.
“What sort of things?” Asked Susan.
“Well, for instance, our girls address their teachers as Madam. Madam is the equivalent of Sir and therefore the equal form of address. ‘Miss’ is the form of address for young girls, just as young boys are called, for example, ‘Master Smith’.”
Susan couldn’t stop herself from laughing out loud. “Well I’ve never heard of that – is that the latest daft idea from the education authority?” She stopped laughing almost immediately when the head mistress remained unmoved except for two raised eyebrows.
“Actually, Miss Bailey, I introduced the policy myself last term.”
“Oh, well, um, now I think about it, er, I can see some advantages.” Susan managed to mumble, her face blushing.
“Also corporal punishment is not administered by classroom teachers. If required, the miscreant should be sent to myself to be dealt with.”
“Oh, but I assumed that at a school with such a good reputation for discipline, all the teachers would…” Susan trailed off.
“And we do indeed have an excellent reputation! We maintain the strictest standards at Westgate County High. Why, the last girl I dealt with was in this very study, when was it, ah yes, about three years ago. One stoke of the cane across her hand. That certainly sent out a message to the whole school. All our girls come from very good homes so that’s all that’s required, just once in a while.”
Mrs Applegate stood up and the meeting was obviously over. As she shooed Susan out of the door she said: “Well, Miss Bailey, I think you have made more mistakes on your first day than any other teacher we have ever had!”
Susan was heart-broken. She had indeed made quite an impression!